Magazine Cover Design: The Essential Elements

Magazine Cover Design

Which magazine do you prefer reading?

Do you already have a mental image in mind? Probably one of your favorite publisher’s magazine covers.

That, in my opinion, would be Angelina Jolie on the Vogue cover. Or perhaps one of the famous Serena Williams-adorned Forbes covers. But, of course, you probably already have a clear idea of the images I’m referring to. So that demonstrates the power of a perfect magazine cover design. Incredible, huh?

This article will demonstrate how to create a magazine cover that stands out from the competition, catches a reader’s attention, and ultimately captures their interest.

Together, we’ll examine the elements of a magazine cover design and discuss the reader’s visuals, typography, placement, and natural abilities—basically, all the processes necessary to produce a magazine cover design that will quickly fly off the shelves.

What are the Elements of a Magazine Cover Design?

The attention of potential customers and the expression of the magazine’s content or theme are the two main objectives when designing a magazine cover. Create a cover design that accomplishes these objectives, and you’ll significantly improve your chances of achieving your ultimate objective—a customer buy. Simply said, effective magazine cover designs result from particular design strategies.

When someone looks at your magazine, they immediately notice the cover. They will purchase it if it resonates with them. However, a fantastic cover design will make it easier for you to sell it, pique readers’ interests, and encourage them to read the entire magazine. That is indeed how important a magazine cover is.

But how can you tell if a cover is adequate? You can rapidly determine this by studying the icons of magazine cover designs and drawing inspiration, so don’t worry.

Yes, there are rules to follow and different elements to incorporate while designing a magazine cover, but there are many diverse methods. Every aspect of the cover design elements must come together flawlessly. Therefore, you must first be familiar with the main elements before we get into more detail on how to create a magazine cover.

The first of all magazine covers are shown below from Vogue. We’ll use it as terminology to examine the elements that ought to be present in a magazine cover design.

 magazine cover graphic design

The following are the critical elements of a magazine cover design:

  • Masthead
  • Issue and dateline
  • Main cover line
  • Supporting cover lines
  • Main image
  • Lead article
  • Bar code

Take each one separately and go into greater detail.


Of course, we must begin with the most significant. The most critical component of any magazine cover is the masthead, which displays the title of the publication. The masthead stands out among the other elements when magazine covers are expertly created. Therefore, placing it squarely in the middle and enlarging it are intelligent practices. Additionally, it will make your publication easier to find among the competition.

So use a large, bold font for the masthead to emulate magazine designers. Don’t forget that the masthead’s text color plays a significant function in enhancing its impact. Therefore, changing the title’s color to correspond with the image and overall design of the front cover is beneficial.

Issue and Dateline

The publication’s date, month, year, and issue number are all listed in this section. Since they only release one issue monthly, some magazines, like Vogue, just list the month and year. In most cases, magazines include the price in this part as well.

Main Cover Line

The primary cover line, which takes up nearly a fourth of the total cover, has the largest font size outside the masthead. When a reader glances at your magazine, this will be the first or second text they encounter. Ensure that the main cover line is intriguing, instructive, and consistent with your theme.

Supporting Cover Lines

The supporting cover lines address matters related to the same theme or maybe an entirely unrelated subject. The key to positioning them on the magazine’s cover is balance. Be sure to keep them simple, concise, and unambiguous. Choose a more subdued font and a smaller size to prevent the reader from being drawn away from the essential points.

Main Image

Typically, the magazine cover’s primary image serves as a representative illustration of the magazine’s content. It ought to accurately depict the main points of the problem. Large magazines frequently include a well-known personality or a striking image that immediately evokes a feeling.

The use of professional images is one thing you should keep in mind while producing your magazine cover. You increase your chances of selling more when you spend money on high-quality photos and have a cover image that stands out from the competition. Additionally, remember that the image you choose will draw readers’ eye contact and pique their interest in reading the entire magazine. So invest in photography since it’s one of the most crucial components of a magazine.

One of the most crucial parts of designing your magazine cover is picking the ideal image. So make sure it accurately reflects the content in the magazine. Explore some top magazine design ideas.

Lead Article

The magazine’s main issue is reflected in the lead article. Interviews with artists, subject matter experts, and others are possible. It is advised to use a distinct typeface for the lead article to clarify the issue’s theme and primary plot.

Bar Code

The bar code area is typically created by the printing facility with which you work, but it’s helpful to plan for it and keep it in mind when you create the cover. Try to leave a small space in one of the corner areas for the bar code. Perhaps you have also observed that some magazines add the price above the bar code, which is unnecessary. You can select the one that suits your cover page the best and even alter the location in other issues.

And now, without further ado, let’s get to the fun stuff!

How to Design Magazine Covers

There are specific guidelines most magazine covers from any top brand worldwide follow.

Here are golden rules to guide you on your next magazine design project:

  • Put the magazine name where everyone will see it.
  • For every magazine issue, utilize the same cover template.
  • Utilize layouts and grids
  • Choose a focal point, then construct the rest of your strategy around it.
  • Try different font styles.
  • Make strong words a priority.
  • Use a healthy amount of color and contrast in the design of your magazine covers.
  • Put a photo on the cover.
  • Don’t use a busy background
  • Strive to be brave. Use illustrations when possible

Put the Magazine Name Where Everyone will see it

We’ve already discussed the significance of the title, name, or masthead. The magazine name should be placed in the most prominent location as your initial step. The truth is that most magazines cover giants feature it in the center of the magazine. People are more likely to notice the magazine the others.

As a result, the name of your magazine should be central to the overall layout of the magazine cover. Making the magazine’s name the focal point of the cover is a standard practice among professional designers. So make it as noticeable, significant, and bold as you can.

Regarding visible titles, look at the illustration below. Do you notice how, even though her head obscures a good number of the title’s letters, you can still tell it is a Vogue cover?

Vogue’s familiar elements across its platforms—including its website, social media accounts, print publications, etc.—helped it grow to be such a well-known brand. Of course, building a brand takes effort and learning, but it is well worth it because readers can recognize your magazine’s ideas across all of your communication platforms.

This is a fantastic idea, mainly if your magazine features a famous person like Taylor Swift on the cover.

It’s usually a good idea to draw ideas or get inspired by others when trying to figure out how to design a magazine cover with a memorable title. So examine the positioning, font choices, and color schemes in the examples below.

For Every Magazine Issue, Utilize the Same Cover Template

The second consideration you should make when creating your own magazine is to select a template you’ll use in the following issues.  Consistency is crucial! Additionally, using the same cover template for subsequent magazine issues encourages readers to become accustomed to and quickly recognize your unique layout.

Maintaining consistency doesn’t mean that each magazine issue should appear identical. That would be monotonous. To let every reader realize you’ve published a new issue, every issue should seem different from the one before. The date and the price should be added to the cover for the same reason.

You can always draw inspiration from All Time Design if you’re unsure how to make cover templates. Their extensive library of magazine templates streamlines the entire creation process.

Utilize Layouts and Grids

Now that you know how much templates can aid in creating a magazine cover design, you must also remember to use those grids and layouts! You can use it to arrange and align your design elements for a clean, polished look on your magazine cover.

Layouts and grids might be helpful, especially if you intend to print the magazine. Professional designers and print shops utilize them to precisely determine where the magazine’s printed pages should be cut and where the safe margins are.

Choose a Focal Point, then Construct the Rest of Your Strategy Around It

Every time you want to create a magazine cover, you must start with the end in mind. As a result, choose one topic—for example, fashion, nature, cooking, business, etc.—and center your writing around it.

For instance, a fashion issue will frequently utilize models as the focal element of its covers, but you might use an item or a headline instead.

However, it’s essential to ensure that your cover design accurately represents your subject.

If the celebrity’s portrait is your primary focus, don’t give too much information about the other items you’ve included; instead, let the portrait speak for itself.

Try Different Font Styles

As you are undoubtedly aware, font styles significantly impact how a magazine cover appears; they can grab viewers’ attention immediately or not at all. That is how much relevance they have, so absolutely.

Consider drawing ideas from the Kate Moss cover, for instance. The image of the well-known model is the primary draw, but the pink, yellow, and white color scheme perfectly enhances the beautiful photography. Additionally, observe how specific fonts are bold while others are not and how some have serif fonts while others are kept simple and elegant. Finally, combining font types may balance out the magazine cover design.

Make Strong and Bold Words a Priority

Selling the stories inside is the primary goal of the magazine cover design. What better method to accomplish that than by accentuating solid and bold words? The aspects that can pique the reader’s interest are the brief teasers indicated in the subheadings.

Don’t undervalue the importance of employing particular words frequently found in headlines. “Now,” “Free,” “Gifts,” and “Exclusive” are the most frequently utilized terms that instantly grab attention. They have been proven effective, so I urge you to stress them.

Keep in mind that emotional factors are what drive individuals to purchase. Therefore, use language that will resonate with individuals to entice them to buy your magazine over others. Check out the guide about how to choose brand colors.

Use a Healthy Amount of Color and Contrast in the Design of Your Magazine Covers

Never pick colors at random when choosing them. Yes, once you’ve chosen the photograph you want to utilize, you may add colorful accents to the cover design to make it stand out.

Look at the cover of this issue of Marie Claire. The photograph and background are various colors of blue, while the lettering is orange.

A color from the photo can be copied and used for various elements on your cover page.

Here’s another illustration of the positive effects that a bit of color may have. The two Wired covers’ brand name color, images, and typography differ. So, while working within the constraints of your brand, be as creative as you can. Adjust your logo’s colors to match the overall design if your creative direction permits it!

Don’t Use a Busy Background

Busy backgrounds can dilute the message you want to convey to the reader. So maintain good organization of the publication cover elements to give it a polished appearance. Additionally, since it will be simpler to make the headlines stand out a little bit more, it is advised that the model on the cover be on translucent or solid color background.

For instance, avoid making the background agglomerated if your magazine cover has several supporting lines and 3D typography. In your cover design, it’s crucial to strike a balance between the amount of text and the crowded backgrounds.

A classic Harper’s Bazaar cover with the well-known actress Sara Jessica Parker is shown here. Although the photo is noticeably blurry through the margins, designers kept the general design of the cover straightforward to let the photo stand out. As a result, follow their example and avoid using crowded backgrounds when you have an image that you want to be the main focus of your magazine cover.

Strive to Be Brave. Use Illustrations When Possible

In general, photos for the cover page do better than illustrations. However, you may combine the two or add some sketches to images for a fun appearance.

Let’s examine the food industry’s most inventive magazine covers to see what design tips we can glean from them.

For instance, all of the sweet tooths out there will undoubtedly buy this Washingtonian magazine cover in second place. It perfectly matches the cuisine with deliciously attractive photos and an entertaining font selection. In addition, they had fun being creative by imaginatively encircling the focal star – the apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top – with the handwritten font style instead of seeking traditional techniques and fonts to create the headline: 100 very finest restaurants.

The Crumbs’ magazine covers are another excellent illustration. Its cover artwork is instantly identifiable, beautiful, encouraging, and helpful. Crumbs magazine is unique compared to other publications on the market, even down to the logo and color scheme used for the text and photograph(s).

Excellent Tips for Magazine Cover Designs

Every component of your magazine covers should work harmoniously to create a chic, assertive style that will entice readers to pick up and flip through your magazine. On the shelf or news racks, the objective is to stand out.

These tips will help you create top-notch designs and templates.

  • Use one-point perspective
  • Combine photography and drawing
  • Spice up the boring stuff
  • Tear it up
  • Use a frame to highlight
  • Use 3D text behind and in front of the image

Use One-Point Perspective

The theme of this New York Times Magazine cover, “The Lives They Lived (And the Things They Loved),” is represented by James Gandolfini’s beat-up Cadillac convertible. The car is seen from one point and disappears into the distance due to its angle, positioning, size, and subtitle.

The background makes the car the central image, thus, giving it a minimalistic overall look.

Combining Photography and Drawing

A combination of photographic and illustrated/designed elements is frequently an excellent approach to make a cover stand out, harkening back to the modest doodle. Look at the inventive ways that Fiasco and Nature magazines combine photography and graphics, as well as how Esquire Malaysia surrounds Daniel Craig with handwritten text rather than conventional typographic fonts.

Spice Up the Boring Stuff

Even though most designers might not be particularly interested in these three elements, they must be positioned. They are typically hands-off in the bottom left corner of publications. However, other publications have discovered inventive locations for them, making them eye-catching design components in and of themselves.

Consider how the price and date are displayed above the title line in The New Yorker or how the barcode is always front and center in the centered circular window in Little White Lies. The barcode, shown below in purple, is positioned dead center because this specific issue of Slanted is set up to appear as though a print error occurred.

Tear it Up

There is a reveal of a different face of the model, either trapped or possibly in control on the Wad cover. This was done by creating the appearance that her face has been split in two. Three eyes view the prospective customer.

Use a Frame to Highlight

On the cover of Hen Magazine, a fractured and disconnected white line surrounds the model’s mouth, emphasizing and drawing attention to her cheeky sneer.

Use 3D Text Behind and In Front of the Image

Even if the magazine cover is technically flat, not every design element needs to be on the same plane. One typical tactic is to position a picture or graphic so that it partially covers some text while appearing behind other text, creating what is known as three-tiered planes.

Free Creative Magazine Cover Samples for Inspiration

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our primary responsibility when tasked with designing a magazine cover is to make it stand out and attract readers. However, you must add a dash of uniqueness while adhering to the graphic designers industry’s industry’s best standards. So, if you are allowed to, be as imaginative as you can to accurately portray the magazine’s content and seek ideas from the forerunners of magazine covers for how to enhance your cover designs.

As a marketing manager, sales manager, business development executive, and business owner in the publication industry, All Time Design graphic designers can help design your covers and offer professional ideas. With its vast experience in the design industry, your covers are sure to get the readers’ attention you want.

Sign up here and get the best template and layout for your magazine covers.

October 12, 2022
10 min read
51 reads

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